I know we all see adorable baby animals on the internet, on social media and in memes and immediately have the urge to cuddle them. They soften our hearts with their big eyes and fluffy tails. We share these images with our friends and family so we can collectively 'awww'.
And given the opportunity, who wouldn't want to cuddle with those adorable fur-babies? There are places that offer it but there's a good reason why you shouldn't pay to 'experience' these animals. The money these places bring in is what keeps them in business.
Do we deserve our animal encounters enough to enslave these animals to a life of abuse and servitude in barren, cramped, chain-link cells?
I hope visitors of this park had no idea what their hundreds of dollars for 'encounters' were funding when they paid to photograph themselves with captive baby animals.
Let that sink in. All that cruelty and suffering so people can pet them. Or take selfies with them. Or swim with them.
Take a moment to think about the natural habitats of these infant animals. What would they be doing if left in the wild, where they clearly belong? Would these babies be learning to hunt or fly? Bonding with siblings? Learning to jump from branch to branch? Growing up and finding mates?
Do people have the right to take that away from them? Rip them away from their mothers? Move them to a different cage.
One thing became clear to me while watching this video: It could all be avoided if we as a species were to live and let live. Yes, I know it sounds hokey but leaving wild animals in the wild isn't a radical idea. It's a respectful one.
Then there are the viral selfie-with-an-animal horror stories:
The malls in China where animals are kept to draw in customers with selfie-ops.
The baby dolphin that died of dehydration on a Buenos Aires beach while tourists passed it around to take pictures
Then a group of tourists killed a peacock at a zoo in China by swarming it and plucking its feathers to keep as souvenirs. The bird died of stress.
Yet another beach-goer pulled a small shark from the water and pinned it on the beach for a photo-op then left it in the sand and walked away.
Animals are not props or vacation itinerary.
There is a chance that the fear repercussion on social media and the resulting possibility of criminal prosecution could keep this relatively new phenomena in check. I've received more than one request to help make some sadistic act go viral.
But repercussion only works when the cruelty is photographed and shared-and when authorities investigate the images posted on social media.
Sharing is the best thing you can do to help. Share this video, even though it's ugly. Let your friends and family know why they shouldn't visit captive animal attractions and experiences. The sooner we all stop showing up for their selfie-ops and their swim-alongs, the sooner we can put places like this out of business and keep wild animals in the wild. Where they belong.